My weekend was a cacophony of leaf blowers, chainsaws and mowers. My legs and arms bear bloody scratches from thorns and random branches, and I have tight and sore muscles that I didn’t even know existed. I see myself as a gardening enthusiast and I totally am if you count all the shit on Pinterest I check out and covet, but in practice, notsomuch. It’s a hard pill to swallow. As an adult, there are things you eventually have to admit to yourself, and this is one of them – along with some other harsh truths that are somewhat uncomfortable to confess – like the fact I struggle every single time I have to make change, or that I’ve never seen the movie Fargo. As the first daffodil blooms, I inevitably get inspired and go buy seedlings and crap and then ultimately come to the realization that gardening IS HARD WORK and abort the mission altogether. This is an (annoying) rite of passage.
Well, that was before, wasn’t it? Everything going forward will be “pre” or “post” pandemic, I imagine…as in “I never ate ice cream for breakfast, pre-pandemic, but I fucking do now because you never know when a horrific virus will spring up and eradicate life as we know it on a global scale.” So, with this new development, I decided to tackle yard work, yet again, this past weekend. I loaded mulch and weeded beds. I trimmed ivy and hauled dead branches to the curb. I used a leaf blower for the first time, and experienced an unexpected level of Zen and satisfaction as I whirled leaves and dirt into teeny tornados in the crooks of our backyard and scattered them to the winds, and hopefully my neighbors yard. Rivulets of sweat ran between my boobs, and my shoulders turned bright pink. When I finally showered I winced as the hot water hit every single raw abrasion my body. My ghostly pale feet were awash in dirt, grass, and dried blood at the bottom of the tub and the heat from the shower made my knees wobbly. And you know what? I felt amazing.
I’m no therapist but I imagine a lot of my satisfaction was derived from feeling like I was in control of SOMETHING, you know? I could make a difference and improve things. I could make things better and the process, in turn, would make ME feel better. Just like in recovery. Get your head out of your own ass and help someone else. There’s no shortage of people to help these days, but it’s hard to know what to do, or where to start, and everyone feels powerless. There’s a roiling current of tension/unease/terror/uncertainty vibrating through the core of our planet right now, and I don’t blame you for not wanting to feel it, but we all do. I certainly don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, or in the next five minutes – also, I think we’re also horrified at the startling (and terrifying, and still somewhat naive) realization that no one actually seems to be in charge, and we have zero leadership at the front of a global crisis.
When my alcoholism and I hit our apex around five years ago, my life was such an abyss of lies, manipulation and shame, that not knowing what was next was just how I lived, my modus operandi…how I rolled. We all hold some uncertainty about the future, but when you’re an alcoholic, there isn’t a future, there’s only day to day survival – an evil and nebulous limbo that I was forever suspended in. I was always bracing for something, or planning an escape, or lying to further my agenda, and it was tiresome. However, that dark snippet of my life has somehow parlayed into a coping mechanism during this current time of insanity. A barometer, if you will. Because (and I know this sounds a bit windswept and dramatic), when you’re living with the devil strapped to your back, anything. . . ANYTHING seems more survivable than that. I suppose I’m lucky as well, being somewhat of a newcomer – I have to remind myself almost daily that I’m still a toddler in sobriety. A wobbly, confused, and sometimes very angry toddler.
So, I’m giving myself a break, like you would a toddler, as they are still learning. For fuck’s sake, none of us survived the Spanish Flu and therefore it’s really our first pandemic and so let’s not beat ourselves up for not knowing what to do…or eating too much crap or watching the Tiger King SHIT SHOW or whatever it is your inner voice is bitching about these days. GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK. Ignore any voice in your head that isn’t supportive and kind. Don’t berate yourself for not organizing your summer clothes, or for not attempting to learn a fucking second language in this interim. You do you, as commercial says. I don’t know what that looks like for you, but for me (today) it involves some meditation, sunshine and music, and tomorrow it may be a day spent under a cozy blanket watching Aidy Bryant’s SHRILL, while eating Russell Stover marshmallow eggs. Judge ye not.
I’m not comparing my alcoholism to a global pandemic…even I am not that grandiose and dramatic, but it gave me a perspective that I otherwise wouldn’t have, and the tools to help me cope. Life is still gonna happen with or without me, and this time, I’m going to be present for it, not just when it’s joyful and gracious, but when its heart-breaking and painful, for that is part of it as well. I don’t know what it’s going to look like on the other side, y’all, but I do know there is one – and I hope we’re all there, standing together united when this is over.
Thanks for reading, you guys. This is a surreal time in history, and I for one am still grateful to be around for it – this too, shall pass.